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IPL: Brand(s), Ban and Future Impact

IPL, with high glam value and super excitement attached to it has changed the way we view Cricket. Though, it faces criticism from Cricket purists, its exponential growth year-on-year is subject of many a case studies.  Packed stadiums, climbing TRPs, ad rates and revenues have brought its success story out of the domain of speculation.

A Look Back:

As per the available reports, TAM data for IPL 2015 first week itself showed a 41% higher television rating compared with the first week in the previous year. It was also one of the most searched brands on Google. As for the brands, a large number of them are associated with it in one form of the other. On-ground brands included Title sponsor PepsiCo, Official partners Yes Bank, Vodafone, and Hotstar and many other sponsors. Among the key on-air sponsors were Amazon, Hero MotoCorp, Vodafone, Paytm, PepsiCo and about half a dozen more.

Of course, one cannot forget MAX here. High TRPs, premium ad rates and flanking strategy by a few brands have made MAX a winner all the way.

The Ban Impact:

Lodha Panel’s verdict banning Chennai Super kings and Rajasthan Royals would definitely impact the brand image of IPL and the brands associated with it.
Let’s not dig into the reasons for it happening – it has already been done to death, but explore its impact on IPL, involved teams, players and brands. A few points to ponder here:

a. It would mean 14 matches less – lesser days would equate to lesser revenue opportunity for MAX
b. As per sportzwiki.com Chennai is the most popular team on IPL circuit – with 1.2 mn Twitter followers and 10 mn Facebook Likes
c. Rajasthan Royals, however, languishes on 6th spot with 435 thousand Twitter followers and 2.7 mn Facebook Likes
d. Key official partners for Chennai Super Kings include: Aircel, 7Up, Coromondal, Gulf, 

Sportsmechanics, Amrapali Group, shopclues.com and many more

e. Official partners of Rajasthan Royals include Ultratech Cement, Rupa, Bikaji, Lawman, Pepperfry.com. Mountain Dew, Spice, Tata Consultancy Services and many more

IPL Brand – would it take a beating?

Ban of CSK and RR teams now, dismantling of two teams – Pune Warrior and Kochi Tuskers in the past and mudslinging between its current and former decision makers in the past have kept IPL in news for a number of wrong reasons as well.

While IPL emerged unscathed from the departure of PW and KT teams by virtue of them being ineffective new teams, would it be able to weather the storm this 

year around as well? Ayaz Memon, does not think so. He says, “It is a serious setback where IPL has gone down to six teams. It would definitely affect the Brand value. Lot of players and staff will be out of the system and the sponsors will also be very unhappy. BCCI is taking measures so that they can add a few more teams. Let’s see how it goes.”

Agrees Indranil Das Blah, Kwan, “It will definitely impact the imagery and the brand value of IPL. These are two significant teams, in fact CSK has been the most high profile team, from the time that it has started. Suddenly you have a league of eight teams being cut down by two to become six teams. Obviously, it will have an immediate impact on the brand value, and their financers and the entire image of the IPL.” However, he believes that if IPL is able to fight it out, it would emerge winners in the long run. He states, “In a two-year time frame, it will be somewhat better than never before because it will establish credibility and trust. If it weathers the storm then IPL will be more trustworthy and a stronger property than ever before.”
Impact on team and player imagery:

CSK and RR, of course, would face the biggest face loss. Though, it is a two-years ban, would the teams be able to get their popularity back once they are back in the game. States Pratap Bose, “These are two teams of consequence, whether it is in the terms of money or popularity. Two star teams’ imagery is bound to get affected. There is already a lot of chatter in the social media and twitter space.”
Would the tarnished team image, then have a negative rub off on the players too? Will they suffer because their team owners chose to indulge in betting? Ayaz is emphatic, “Nothing suggests that any form of bad negativity will happen to the players, now or in the near future.” Would the brands not shy away from having players like Dhoni and Raina as their brand ambassadors? “Personally I think that Dhoni and Raina are two different entities/individuals. There is no comparison between the two. Raina does not have a single brand of his own which he endorses,” Ayaz takes pains to explain, “Dhoni has got all his endorsements as Indian Players and not because of IPL. I do not think Dhoni personal brand will be affected as an Indian Player.”

Point taken. But would the players from these teams would be absorbed in other teams? “There is no clarity on the players’ future as of now.  No clarity whether they can play with some other team or not,” states Bose. One sure hopes they get to play in other teams – these teams have some of the best players in IPL.

Should brands be more careful?

In a different direction, is there a learning for brands in it? They, perhaps, need to find out reasons behind a success story before investing into it. Would there be a negative effect of all this on brands associated with these two teams? Bose expresses, “None of the brands in the past have faced this kind of an issue. It is for the first time. Having got a jolt from this report, brands will be more careful in future.”

Indranil, however, believes it is the franchise owners who need to be more careful. For the brands, it is just a successful property and it would have no impact what-so-ever on brand imagery. He comments, “I don’t think it has anything to do with the brands. IPL is a super successful entertainment property, and a lot of brands have been a part of it. Brands can be more careful than they are already with the IPL. In fact, the franchise owners need to be a lot more careful with the investment in the property like IPL”.

If brands don’t believe that they would be impacted by the banning of two teams they might look at investing in other IPL teams. However, if they do believe it has a negative rub off, would they turn the leagues and tournaments that are emerging in other sports?

Bose, believes, that ‘every other sport will find its place under the sun now.’ Agrees Indranil,“Brands will be looking at alternatives. If there are only six teams in IPL, then only X no. of brands will be associated. Plus with the controversy with the IPL, they will be slightly weary of it as a property. So that extra money will go to other leagues.”

The curtains might be drawn on two IPL teams. However, as for marketing and media community, it is an evolving story. It might take months, before the dust finally settles down and brand move onto different teams and sports.

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